Whew! One more semester completed and ONLY one more to go. This Spring (2011) will be by my final semester at SLU in the Urban Planning and Real Estate Development Master’s Program. All that remains is my Capstone project (basically a thesis though more practical than theoretical). While I haven’t formally declared my topic yet, the general idea is to study the vacant corner lot gas stations in St. Louis City and create a strategic plan for redevelopment. Vacant corner lot gas stations can be great investment opportunities, but often seem intimidating to investors and rehabbers and are therefore overlooked opportunities in typically great locations.

This past semester I broke the ice by comparing two possible locations for redevelopment in my GIS class. Below are photos of two vacant gas/service stations in South St. Louis. For my project, I posed a simple question and studied it through GIS software.

The Problem:

CLIENT X lives in South St. Louis and has been looking in the City of St. Louis for a new location for a coffee roasting and distribution business. The client is  looking for a location near her home and is specifically looking for a former gas or service station that can be renovated. While the main business will be coffee roasting and distribution, a secondary line of revenue will be generated from drive-through coffee sales. The client would like to be located in a residential neighborhood with moderate to high commuter traffic where the household median income is above average.

The client has narrowed her options down to two locations. Both are in South St. Louis; both are within a 3 mile radius of downtown St. Louis.

Corner of Utah and Wisconsin in Benton Park

Corner of Michigan and Arsenal in Tower Grove East


The visual above shows two map layouts. Both maps are zoomed to a portion of South St. Louis which includes the neighborhoods of Tower Grove East and Benton Park with surrounding neighborhoods. Both maps show the subject properties (labeled Property 1 and Property 2). The first map symbolizes the number of commuters per census tract. The second map symbolizes the Median Household income per census tract. Based on the maps it appears there are more morning drivers in those tracts located within Tower Grove East than there are located within the Benton Park. Furthermore it appears that median income levels with the Tower Grove East neighborhood are higher than those tracts located in the Benton Park neighborhood. The preferred location for the coffee distribution company is Property 2 located in the Tower Grove East neighborhood.

This past semester was my first experience with GIS, so I have just barely scratched the surface of what the program is capable of doing. I am looking forward to spending learning the ins and outs and using the program for my Capstone research and real estate business. If you are interested in abandoned corner lot gas stations, stay tuned. I think there will be several more postings on the topic and I delve into the prospect of adaptive reuse over the next semester.